Grenfell will soon be joining Regina Minor Football (RMF), if enough kids can be rounded up to form a pee wee team.
Jeremy Hodgins coached football in Regina for seven years, until he moved to Grenfell in November of 2008. One of the first things that caught his eye after he moved into town was the expansive field next to Grenfell High.
“I got here and thought ‘Wow, look at that awesome football field,’ and I was surprised to hear that they didn’t have football,” he said.
He has missed coaching ever since he left Regina, and his wife, a Grenfell elementary teacher, helped convince him that there were plenty of kids in the area who might be interested in playing football.
“Finally I missed it enough that I thought it’s time to at least try to put something together,” Hodgins said. “I really missed the comradery of football and the discipline.”
So far Hodgins has recruited players from Grenfell and Neudorf, and will be expanding his efforts to surrounding areas, including Broadview, Wolseley and Kipling. He needs at least 30 registered or interested kids in order to start a team, and has rounded up 16 so far.
“It’s a positive start so far,” he added.
The maximum age for players is 13, but younger kids are welcome to join if they are up to it. RMF has a 135 pound weight limit in place, just to give the smaller players a chance.
“If you think he’s big enough, and he’s willing to learn, I’ll do my best to ease him into it,” Hodgins said.
Even though some kids are bound to be fitter or more skilled than others, Hodgins always makes sure that everyone gets a chance to take part in the games.
“I don’t like seeing some of the younger kids not playing,” he said. “If they’re going to be at practice as part of the team, they need to feel like part of the team, and they’re not going to learn from sitting on the bench.”
He is aware that players all develop at different rates, and has found that sometimes the players who struggle in the beginning end up ahead of the pack.
“The most exciting thing for me is the improvement of someone who just isn’t getting it, and all of a sudden the light just clicks on and they’re a whole different player.”
Another highlight for Hodgins has been watching the groups of individuals transform into structured teams.
“That first practice, you have these kids who have no idea how to tackle, no idea how to run routes or anything, and then a month later you have all this disciplined play-calling - that’s the goal, anyway. It’s definitely enjoyable to see where you go from start to finish.”
Hodgins first started playing football in high school, and wishes to this day that he had started at a much younger age.
“That’s one of my biggest regrets in life,” he added.
He has been approached numerous times by parents who are concerned about their children playing such a physical sport, but feels there are numerous benefits to starting them at an early age.
“There’s a way to learn how to take a hit properly,” Hodgins explained. “The younger they learn what contact feels like - what it feels like to receive a hit and to give a hit - the stronger they’re going to become, and the less chance of injury.”
The football season will span roughly three months, from August to October, with about one game per week, the majority of them on the weekends.
Hodgins encourages parents to let their kids try it out, even if they’re not sure.
“There’s no shame in trying, and if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out.”
To start them off, Hodgins assumes none of the players know the first thing about football.
“We teach falling properly, to tackling properly to form tackling, how to protect yourself from a hit - basically all the fundamentals of it. Then we put it all together as the season goes on.”
All parents need to worry about is paying the registration fee and providing cleats, and everything else will be covered by RMF.
“It’s relatively inexpensive when you compare it to hockey when you’re just getting into it, because the equipment is provided,” Hodgins pointed out.
In the last several years, he has noticed a dramatic increase in the popularity of football among the younger generations.
“It’s grown more than you can imagine, especially with the success of the Riders, a lot of young people are starting to play.”
Hodgins hopes to have 30 registered or interested kids rounded up by the end of April, May at the latest.
He hopes this will be just the beginning for football in the area, and that it will continue to thrive for years to come.
“It might take four years to be a very competitive football team, but at least we’re going to start now and get people interested, and eventually maybe we’ll have an atom team and a pee wee team.”
Hodgins feels that football can provide kids with skills that they can use in all aspects of their lives, including working with all kinds of different people as part of a team.
“I don’t care if you’re friends, I want you to be teammates,” he said. “Not everybody is going to get along in life, and it’s important to see the value in building a team. I think football definitely does that.”
Jeremy Hodgins at 306-533-1214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.